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Legg v. McCarter

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 13, 2017

PAUL BRADLEY LEGG, Plaintiff,
v.
RICKY McCARTER, ET AL., Defendants.

          ORDER (1) GRANTING APPLICATION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF FEES OR COSTS; (2) DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH LEAVE TO AMEND; AND (3) DENYING AS MOOT ALL PENDING MOTIONS

          Derrick K. Watson United States District Judge.

         INTRODUCTION

         On October 11, 2017, Plaintiff Paul Bradley Legg, proceeding pro se, filed several documents, which the Court liberally construed as a Complaint, alleging fraud and numerous other grievances against several individuals and entities due to the “seizure” of certain real property. See Compl., Dkt. No. 1-1. On October 11, 2017, the district court issued a deficiency order, directing Legg to either pay the applicable filing fee or to submit a completed in forma pauperis application within twenty-eight days. Dkt. No. 3. On November 6, 2017, Legg filed an Application to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP Application”). Dkt. No. 4. The Court GRANTS the IFP Application. However, because Legg fails to state a claim, several defendants are immune from suit, and the Court is without subject matter jurisdiction, the Court DISMISSES the Complaint and GRANTS Legg limited leave to file an amended complaint in accordance with the terms of this order by December 15, 2017. The Court also DENIES as moot Legg's Motion for Leave to Amend and Motion for Service by the United States Marshal, as discussed more fully below.[1]

         DISCUSSION

         Because Legg is proceeding pro se, the Court liberally construes his filings. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987) (“The Supreme Court has instructed the federal courts to liberally construe the ‘inartful pleading' of pro se litigants.”) (citing Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364, 365 (1982) (per curiam)). The Court recognizes that “[u]nless it is absolutely clear that no amendment can cure the defect . . . a pro se litigant is entitled to notice of the complaint's deficiencies and an opportunity to amend prior to dismissal of the action.” Lucas v. Dep't of Corr., 66 F.3d 245, 248 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Crowley v. Bannister, 734 F.3d 967, 977-78 (9th Cir. 2013).

         I. Plaintiff's IFP Application Is Granted

         Federal courts can authorize the commencement of any suit without prepayment of fees or security by a person who submits an affidavit that demonstrates an inability to pay. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). “An affidavit in support of an IFP application is sufficient where it alleges that the affiant cannot pay the court costs and still afford the necessities of life.” Escobedo v. Applebees, 787 F.3d 1226, 1234 (9th Cir. 2015) (citing Adkins v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339 (1948)); see also United States v. McQuade, 647 F.2d 938, 940 (9th Cir. 1981) (The affidavit must “state the facts as to affiant's poverty with some particularity, definiteness and certainty.”) (internal quotation omitted).

         When reviewing an application filed pursuant to § 1915(a), “[t]he only determination to be made by the court . . . is whether the statements in the affidavit satisfy the requirement of poverty.” Martinez v. Kristi Kleaners, Inc., 364 F.3d 1305, 1307 (11th Cir. 2004). While Section 1915(a) does not require a litigant to demonstrate absolute destitution, Adkins, 335 U.S. at 339, the applicant must nonetheless show that he is “unable to pay such fees or give security therefor.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a).

         Here, the IFP Application indicates that Legg receives SSI benefits in the amount of $756 per month, but lists no other funds available, such as in cash or in a checking or savings account. Based upon the IFP Application, Legg's income falls below the poverty threshold identified by the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) 2017 Poverty Guidelines. See 2017 HHS Poverty Guidelines, available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/01/31/2017- 02076/annual-update-of-the-hhs-poverty-guidelines. Accordingly, the Court finds that Legg has made the required showing under Section 1915 to proceed without prepayment of fees, and GRANTS his IFP Application.

         II. Plaintiff's Complaint Is Dismissed With Limited Leave to Amend

         Upon review of the Complaint, the Court finds that Legg fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted or to establish this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. As discussed below, even liberally construed, the Complaint fails to state any basis for judicial relief against any party.

         A. Standard of Review

         The Court subjects each civil action commenced pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) to mandatory screening and can order the dismissal of any claims it finds “frivolous, malicious, failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeking monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (stating that 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) “not only permits but requires” the court to sua sponte dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint that fails to state a claim); Calhoun v. Stahl, 254 F.3d 845, 845 (9th Cir. 2001) (per curiam) (holding that “the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) are not limited to prisoners”). Because Legg is appearing pro se, the Court liberally construes the Complaint.

         The Court may dismiss a complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted[.]” A Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper when there is either a “‘lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged.'” UMG Recordings, Inc. v. Shelter Capital Partners, LLC, 718 F.3d 1006, 1014 (9th Cir. 2013) (quoting Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990)). A plaintiff must allege “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)); see also Weber v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 521 F.3d 1061, 1065 (9th Cir. 2008). This tenet-that the court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint-“is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Accordingly, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Starr v. Baca, 652 F.3d 1202, 1216 (9th Cir. 2011) (“[A]llegations in a complaint or counterclaim may not simply recite the elements of a cause of action, but must contain sufficient allegations of underlying facts to give fair notice and to enable the opposing party to defend itself effectively.”).

         “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Factual allegations that only permit the Court to infer “the mere possibility of misconduct” do not show that the pleader is entitled to relief as required by Rule 8. Id. at 679.

         B. The Complaint Fails To State A Claim For Relief

         Based on the Court's preliminary screening, it appears that Legg seeks to allege fraud claims under state law and violations of his federal rights against what appear to be a United States Trustee involved in a bankruptcy proceeding, state court judges, private attorneys, realtors, and other individuals involved in the conveyance of real property in which he claims an interest. Even given a liberal construction, the allegations in the Complaint fail to state a claim against any defendant. As to each claim, the Complaint fails to provide sufficient factual content to enable the Court to draw the reasonable inference that any defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, or, that ...


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